Carl and Mirella Panozzo
In 1965, at the age of 25, Carl Panozzo (a devout Roman Catholic) left
his native Vicenza, Italy, which he lovingly refers to as "the old
country", for America.
In the late 1970s, a particularly harsh, bitterly cold Wisconsin winter
drove Carl to a relatively warmer Massachusetts, where he had friends
and wher he rented an apartment for himself. He was keeping himself very
busy, but felt there was something missing from his life.
In 1973, while attending a social function at a friend's house, Carl
met Mirella, who was visiting America from Italy. Carl was "hit by
the thunderbolt", and it quickly dawned on him that this was the
woman with whom he would spend the rest of his life. They married and
moved into his small apartment. To this day, Carl and Mirella are happily married.
Four months after they married, Carl found what he felt at the time was
job "security" with General Motors. G.M. offered benefits, vacation
days and a retirement plan. He and Mirella were overcome with joy. Little
could Carl and Mirella appreciate that since his arrival in America he
had been inhaling asbestos, which later created a monster which today
threatens all they have built together.
After taking the job at G.M., Carl and Mirella saved their money to buy
a piece of land. They had designed and built their own home. They then
began a family, raising two sons. Carl had a loving wife, healthy and
intelligent sons, and a reliable job. Carl took pride in his family, his
home, and his work. A loyal employee, Carl bought nothing but G.M. cars.
His life was complete. He was in excellent health. Decades of running on
soccer fields chiseled and maintained Carl's body. He claims exceptional
lung capacity and size. He would only have an occasional glass of beer,
and watched what he ate. Mirella was also very health-conscious, and remains
so today. She ran in several marathons in and out of the country and for
the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. Mirella was scheduled to travel to San
Diego, California this June and walk a marathon.
But this and other plans for the future screeched to a halt in the latter
part of the winter of 2001, when Carl began to feel an unusual pressure
in the right side of his back. At times, the pressure made him feel as
though he was having a heart attack. There was also pressure on his bladder
which forced him to urinate five to six times a night.
In March of 2001, he made an appointment with his family physician, who
ordered chest films. The films showed a right-sided pleural effusion.
Carl then underwent a right-sided thoracentesis via an eighteen-gauge
needle from the back. Over a liter of pinkish fluid was removed. Cytological
tests upon the fluid were negative for malignancy.
On April 30, a second thoracentesis was performed. His doctors withdrew
another liter of pinkish fluid, which again tested negative for malignancy.
After this procedure, his doctor looked at Carl and told him he needed
to take a biopsy to find out what was causing the fluid to return.
On May 18, he underwent a right thoracoscopy with pneumolysis and partial
decortication, a right parietal pleural biopsy, and a fiberoptic bronchoscopy.
The surgeon found very small, white spots studding the pleura. The spots
were about an eighth of an inch in diameter. He harvested biopsy samples
for testing in the pathology laboratory. The laboratory returned a diagnosis
of poorly differentiated malignant mesothelioma.
Carl was quickly (and fortuitously) referred to Dr. Harvey Pass, one of
the world's foremost treaters of mesothelioma and Chairman of the
Science Advisory Board of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (MARF), a 501(c) not-for-profit corporation whose mission is the eradication
of mesothelioma as a life-ending disease.
Carl met with Dr. Pass at the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, Michigan
on May 24. After reviewing Mr. Panozzo's medical records and tests
results, Dr. Pass noted that Carl was a good candidate for surgical intervention.
The Panozzos felt very comfortable with Dr. Pass. Before leaving his office,
Carl looked at Dr. Pass and said "My birthday is June 9; please give
me another birthday."
On June 8, Carl underwent an extra-pleural pneumonectomy. There were no
complications, and he was sent home on June 14. In July, he will begin copper
chelate chemotherapy, which is used to inhibit the tumor's ability to grow blood vessels
and feed itself.
With the future in doubt and the medical bills piling up, the Panozzos
must struggle to contain their anger. Carl feels that his loyalty and
hard work on the job have been repaid with his poisoning. Mirella simply
would like the people responsible sent to prison.
Our thoughts and prayers are with this wonderful family as they fight this
*** Posted on July 9, 2001 ***
An Update --
Carl Panozzo had a coughing spell today that lasted intermittently over
the entire morning. Parts of it happened in short bursts while others
dragged on for fifteen minutes, but the worst was a spell that lasted
for over an hour. This is not uncommon for him, and he is, quite simply,
exhausted. However, his inner strength is ever present. Despite hovering
at 20-25 pounds under his normal weight, Carl is keeping his spirits up,
something his doctor cites as a necessary part of his survival -- that
and his struggles to eat as regularly as possible to maintain his strength.
After disappointing results with the copper chelation therapy that, as
Carl puts it, "brought [him] to his knees," Carl switched to
a more traditional regimen of chemotherapy with Gemzar and Carboplatin,
under the orders of Dr. Harvey Pass. He finished four months of that treatment,
and is now recovering. A recent CT scan indicated that his tumor is holding,
and in six weeks, he returns for another, to see if he needs to continue
chemotherapy. He hopes the results are better.
Additionally, Carl was happy to see his two sons, of whom he is phenomenally
proud, at Christmas. They, along with Carl's devoted wife, Mirella,
are an incredible support base. They help him when he needs it, they provide
inspiration with what they do in their daily lives and they, as well as
many other family and friends, both in America and Italy, are praying
for Carl. He is grateful for them but he worries, because his natural
inclination is to take care of them, and not have it the other way around.
He chokes up as he says, "I would like to have my health back, and
my lung back more than anything, but even I know that is not possible."
For now, he pushes ahead as he always has, wanting to have one more birthday.
An Update -- 10/16/02
Carl has begun treatments with Alimta, his fourth type of chemotherapy.
He receives an injection every three weeks"The first week is pretty
rough, the second is okay and by the third week I'm ready to begin
the cycle all over again." Carl says that with a lot of love, a little
medicine and a lot of spirit to survive, he has managed to improve the
way he feels. The support he receives from his family and friends is what
keeps him going. He is still unable to perform a lot of what he used to
do, such as travel, since he has to stay close to the hospital and keep
his treatments going. Since the first frost has hit Michigan, he doesn't
spend time in the garden like before. He adds that his most challenging
job around the house is changing a light bulb.
These days Carl has been busy helping his brother, an Italian author, translate
his third novel from Italian to English. The novel is set in WWII and
chronicles the events involving the Americans' efforts to limit German
transport by bombing their rail connections for almost a whole year.
An Update --
Carl recently began treatments with Doxil. He had his second treatment
this week and is suffering some side effects. The latest CT scan revealed
some growth. He is no longer taking Alimta. Carl is not sleeping well
at night, so he is sleeping in his recliner to keep his chest elevated.
With his restless night combined with his pain medications Carl spends
most of his days sleeping. Earlier this year Carl experienced discomfort
in his legs, the source of the problem was never identified but the doctor
suspected some nerve damage may have occurred during chemotherapy, or
it a pulled muscle.
An Update --
Some news about Carl. The Alimta treatments worked for the first seven
to eight months. Carl could drive the car for two to three miles and also
he was feeling so much better and stronger. Unfortunately, the Alimta
stopped working , mesothelioma found it's way back.
For the last few months Carl has been tried two more different chemotherapies
with no results. He has been in pain day and night, taking very strong
pain medication which makes him weak and sick.
A recent cat-scan reveals that mesothelioma is active. Carl just began
taking Iressa this week. He is a little more relaxed. He is also taking
sleeping pills to help him sleep.
This is a very critical and difficult time. Carl is very good in keeping
his spirits high at least in front of other people and on the phone, particularly
with his brothers and sister. We do have hopes and we pray to have a few
good years and be able to go for a visit in Italy to see our relatives.
This is Carl's and my dream. Best of luck. Mirella Panozz
* * * Mr. Panozzo passed away on August 25, 2003 * * *